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Experiencing Hope

Key verse Psalm 130:7

‘Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.’

Sometimes surrendering to the possibility of hope, is the bravest thing we can do.  Even though it might not be without its struggle.  When we chose hope, especially in the pain place of broken dreams, the hard place of waiting for His promises to come to pass, we sit often with situations not entirely comfortable.

Let’s be honest, it is difficult to have hope at times.  Even though we know hope exists, and we chose it, time and time again, this isn’t an easy journey.

It costs us something to experience Hope and to wait.

It is a journey of surrender.

Surrender, it sounds like a gentle word, but actually requires us to do some rather fierce internal battles.  And, in these we need Jesus.

Whatever feelings we are experiencing we need Jesus.

Surrendering everything including our feelings and struggle to Jesus is part of experiencing hope.

In His radical grace Jesus holds us and He says, ‘You are brave.’

Psalm 130 is a poem of the experience of hope, the writer is unknown, their troubles not identified all we know is that they are waiting, and depending on God.  This in turn allows these verses a universality giving us all the chance to pray them in our own circumstances.

Recently I read some beautiful words by John Donahue, from his book, ‘To Bless the Space Between Us’, he wrote,

‘Be excessively gentle with yourself.’

As I pray and read Psalm 130, I hear God’s voice echoed in John’s words, speaking to us all, whispering to each of you reading this as we wait and experience hope in Him.

‘Be excessively gently with yourself because I am excessively gentle with you.’

Ponder

How can you nurture your hope in the Lord?
How can you be excessively gentle with yourself today?

God wants us to encourage others

Key Verse – Psalm 110:1

‘The Lord says to my lord’

The Lord says to my lord’ now just who is David talking about in this line?  There are interpretations that suggest he is talking to himself, others that he is talking to God, and another that he is speaking directly about the Messiah.

Often referred to as a Messianic Psalm, just how much David knew about the nature of the Messiah is difficult to determine from a purely biblical textual point of view, however, we do know that Jesus used Psalm 110 to suggest that David knew his descendant (Jesus) would be His superior.

As a King and a Prophet, and a psalmist, David, may have known more about the Messiah, than is recorded in the Bible, or was revealed to the Israelites at that time.  Psalm 110 does suggest a prophetic divine revelation from God to David in relation to the Messiah. Therefore, if we take it that David was writing about the Messiah, about Jesus, then this line may be easily interpreted as David ‘my lord’ talking to ‘The Lord’ Jesus Christ. David knew his descendant would be his superior.

Psalm 110 is quoted more frequently by New Testament writers than any other single piece of Old Testament text, so we can derive from this, that there was a level of Messianic understanding in relation to this Psalm.  Peter quotes it with the same meaning as Jesus in Acts 2:33-36 as part of his Pentecost speech.

What stands out for me in this Psalm are how David hears God’s voice and what the Lord shared with him, in the form of prophecy. Just think of the power of this prophetic word that David shared in the Psalms, how generations later, Jesus and Peter were both able to use it, how we today use it. Prophetic encouraging words are alive.

1 Cor 14:31 says, ‘For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.’ Each day God speaks directly to us, and He shares with us words of prophesy and encouragement we can share with others. The difference hearing and giving words of encouragement and prophecy have made to my life is immeasurable. They remind me of God’s promises, of His love, and they have helped me, bringing me back to Jesus as my focus, when circumstances are overwhelming. The power of prophetic words, and words of encouragement should never be underestimated.

Right now God is talking to you, giving you words and pictures of encouragement to share with others, perhaps it’s time to start giving them away to other people?

Thoughts to Ponder

Ask God to give you a word of encouragement for someone specific today, then share it with them – in a text, a letter, a telephone call, across the internet or in person.  The power of your words hold the power of life and death, remember the guidelines for encouraging and prophetic words at our church, they should be uplifting, encouraging, and not contradict scripture.

Worship Changes Atmospheres

Key Verse: Psalm 103:8

‘The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.’

‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, O, oh my soul, worship His Holy name’ we sang, arms stretched, praising God.  As we sang the atmosphere changed and the room was filled with the angelic joining us in praise.  There is something about singing these words written by King David, and interpreted by Matt Redmond, which pulls at every part of my being, fully engaging my heart, soul and spirit in worship.

Perhaps it is the soaring language of Psalm 103 set to music, which lifts us to the breathtaking heights of God’s love for us, combined with the fact that when we hear music we listen to it not just with our heads but with our muscles.

I have found that whatever I feel as I journey through life, worshipping God is what I want to do.  On the days when singing seems like the last thing that will help, pouring everything in me out to God in song as an act of worship, is transforming.  On the days when I feel joy beyond words, singing in worship gives an expression to my feelings.  When I am battling deadlines or bad news worship takes away the pressure.

We are designed to worship God.  If we don’t worship we give up our reason to exist.

Worshipping releases feelings, lifts us above our circumstances, takes our heads and hearts to new spaces, and allows us to be vulnerable in a safe place.

When we worship we connect body, mind and spirit, on emotional, physical, mental, practical and intellectual levels with the three fold nature of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  King David who wrote this Psalm was an avid worshipper, who we are told, ‘danced before the Lord with all his might’, understood this, and he assigned the Levite tribe of musicians to sing God’s praises 24/7/365.

David is pouring out all the reasons to praise God, he writes about the actions of the Lord showing His kindness, rich love and mercy to us. The Lord forgives us, heals all our diseases, redeems our lives, crowns us with love and compassion, satisfies our desires and renews our strength like an eagle, the Lord Loves us.

King David’s words are as true today as when they were written, our lives are full of God’s glory and goodness, His compassion and revelation, His love and forgiveness.  There is much to worship Him for.  When we worship it connects us to our creator.

Worship changes atmospheres.

Worship changes everything, most of all us.

Thought to Ponder

Maybe today you need lifted above your circumstances, so why don’t you sing out in worship to God and let Him transform you.

Bread baked tears

Key Verse: Psalm 80:3

Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Wet and sticky beneath my hands as I knead, I scatter flour across the cool marble, and make dough.  My face is hot and soggy, tears I thought had finished fall into the mixture as I work the dough.  The news had not been good and I wept, as I was baking bread to give my hands something to do, my thoughts somewhere else to be.  Dough rose, and was bake to bread that held the tears of my weeping.

In Psalm 80 the Israelites petition God in their suffering, they cry out to him.  The Psalmist conveys their distress by saying the people eat the tears they shed – lechem dimah, the bread of tears.  The tears they have shed while making the dough, are baked into their bread, which they then ate.  They literally and physically cry out to God, knowing only He can restore them.

Today the world is crying, weeping for God’s restoration.  Beheadings, poverty, terrorism, extremism, war, strategic attacks, there is much in the news that makes us cry for the peace of Jerusalem, for the peace of the world.   Loneliness is the despair of an ever increasingly connected planet.  Life lacks warmth and intimacy.  Pain is rampant.   Death lurks behind shadows. News is rarely good.  Babies die and mother’s mourn.  Wounds run deep both on and in this earth.

Tears are shed.  We cry out to God.  Corporately and individually we cry out.  Just like the Israelites we know our tears are, our only way home, back to God.  Jewish Midrash says God gave humanity tears as a gift, after sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden he said, “For this reason I give you out of My heavenly treasure this priceless pearl. Look! It is a tear! And when grief overtakes you and your heart aches so that you are not able to endure it, and great anguish grips your soul, then thee will fall from your eyes this tiny tear. Your burdens will grow lighter then.”

Tears can be seen as testimony to God’s presence, in the midst of our pain, his healing and restoration.  Our pain and tears are also the God-given place where His succour and healing begin.

Tears are the catalyst of transformation for our hearts.

Thought to Ponder:

Perhaps you need to consider letting your tears flow today, and drawing close to God asking him the heal the deep places they fall from.

God is for you

Key Verse: Psalm 56:8

‘You keep track of all my sorrows, You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.’

Their words like flint daggers, jagged and piercing seemed to pull in and out of my flesh.  With smiles that didn’t meet their eyes people I worked with treated me like the words of Psalm 56 ‘… they conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, hoping to take my life… they twist my words, all their schemes are for my ruin’.  I was ambushed, and bleeding, and if the mental onslaught was not enough, I was physically assaulted during the same period.

I was left in anguish wondering when would this end, how is it possible to put one foot in front of the other, and keep walking.  Perhaps it was easier to crumple under their ambush, the constant pursuit which hit me physically, spiritually, and mentally.  If it hadn’t been for God, and the people He put around me, then maybe I may have.  It was a ‘But God’ moment.

As hot burning tears that fell from my cheeks, I chose to ‘look to Him’ and believe Him when He said, ‘Nicky I am for you. You can trust me.’  During this time of assault against my heart, I chose worship as my warfare. As I read Psalm 56 I imagine David in his time of anguish and attack doing the same.

I took comfort in the fact that God took my tears seriously. They are important to him and Psalm 56 suggests that they are so very very precious to Him, He stores our tears in a little bottle. In antiquity tear bottles were used to catch and preserve the owner’s tears during times of extreme pressure or grief, and during those times of grief after someone’s passing, those bottles of tears would have been buried with the deceased as a mark of respect or love for the one who had died.

Commentaries link this Psalm to 1 Samuel 1:21 when David was a man on the run, already anointed as King of Israel  he was fleeing from Saul, who was trying to kill him to preserve the throne for Jonathan. David was outnumbered, but he knew God was for Him and that he was not alone. Having experienced God’s deliverance many times, he knew that God would protect him, and that his heavenly future was secure. David also knew the importance of his tears, that they along with his feelings and fears were important to God, just like ours are today.

David, like all great leaders, was not afraid to admit to God he needed help. Although already a giant killer and mighty warrior, he chose not to let his pride prevent him from admitting his fear to God. This Psalm and other Bible verses illustrate to us just how important it is to both bring all our feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly, before God, to let Him transform us. We can trust Him, for if we remember what God has done for us in the past, we know He is faithful and will do it again.

Thoughts to Ponder

David at a time of great stress and strain chooses to remember God’s promises, he knows physical harm could come to him, but he also knows his heavenly future is secure, ‘In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’  As I read these words I think of the words God gave to Joshua, ‘Be strong and courageous, for I will never leave you or forsake you.’(Joshua 1:9)  Maybe today it’s important for you to remember what God has done for you in the past, to rest in the knowledge that He can do it again and, no matter what is happening, He will never leave you or forsake you.

CFC - Christian Fellowship Church